Friday, April 9, 2010

The Onion as a Metaphor for Life; Life as a Metaphor for The Onion

How easy it is to identify with a character, even one from a different background than you, even from the other gender than you, if that character is shown combating a familiar conflict, experiencing the gulp that precedes a moral choice. 

Such matters wrench us into a story with little thought or push necessary, at which point we're off and running for the length of the narrative--unless something happens that causes us to pause. Such pauses are frequently associated with the highly subjective judgment that behavior or circumstances such as those portrayed in the narrative are not likely to happen in real life.

This last observation is often more difficult a standard to deal with. All life, it appears, really is a headline from The Onion. We want our story to approximate real life proportions, have a real life sense of verisimilitude, allowing us the extravagance that the events in a particular story could happen somewhere to someone. 

 For every period in the history of our species, there are characters such as the all-too real Michele Bachman, who, at this date, represents Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.  She, and any number of outspoken-in-ridiculous-extreme individuals, see conspiracy even in something as comforting to most of us as a bowl of Cherrios

Such individuals appear to us as narrative inventions, crafted to show some extreme representation of the absurdity resident in all of us. These characters, as well as some of our sports heroes and doctrinal advocates, represent metaphor more than individuality. And like some of us who are so fond of Googling our symptoms as a springboard to thinking the absolute worse about the consequences of a small lesion or bump, we believe these individuals to have been touched by the hand or some other limb of God, blessed, anointed, subjects of continuous interest.

We want our stories to ring with the veracity of reality, but at the same time, we want our reality to be plangent with the vibrations of story. It is true enough that we are all on the cusp of being ad mad as March hares, which is the very force that gives certain individuals their status; they are over the edge, each and every gesture a headline for The Onion. 

In consequence, we step forth each day, resolved at first to do out best at the ordinariness that extends before us, hours if not days dominated by routine and the frustrations only routine events can bring down upon us, longing however wrongheadedly for the romance and adventure Emma Bovary yearned for. For most of us, the illusion of ordinariness is shattered within the first hour or so of being awake and driven by the inner agendas of creativity or the outer ones of work, family, and societal obligations.

Simply put, as we expand outward from the points of our origin, we become progressively (bad word in some states) more eccentric and more perfervid yet in our belief in what we are doing, our rationale for doing it, and our complete willingness to make an excuse for our self in which we can be any damn (and damnable) thing we chose.

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